Students and faculty gathered together in the Alumni Lounges for the opening proclamation of Queer and Trans History Month and Disability Awareness Month on Monday. President Cindy Jebb, as well as staff from the Women’s Center and the Office of Specialized Services (OSS), delivered their remarks about what these two months mean to them and the Ramapo community.
The events began with Marie Danielle-Attis, coordinator for the Office of Violence Prevention and member of the Women’s Center staff, giving opening remarks about the event.
“As someone who has a hidden disability — two actually — I am so proud to actually be the one to open for Disability Awareness Month,” she said. “As someone who has a slew of friends and a slew of family members who are part of the spectrum of LGBTQ+, I am so proud to say most of them, I know for a fact, call me an ally.”
She also expressed pride in the students she works with who are part of both communities and said this month will include discussions on the intersectionality between these two identities.
“It’s very important we do that because people are dynamic. We are all dynamic here so we can’t just talk about one thing. We have to talk about all things,” she said.
After senior and Women’s Outreach Coordinator of the Women’s Center Genesis Siverio read the LGBTQ+ poem “Glitter in My Wounds,” President Jebb came up to the podium to speak about diversity and inclusivity.
“What’s driven our strategic reorganization was ensuring that we made a priority of diversity, inclusion and equity and how important that is,” she said.
“Having a VP for student well-being shifts the conversation. Having a VP for diversity and inclusion who also runs our cabinet of agents shifts the conversation…” she continued.
Jebb also said that feeling “a sense of belonging” is a priority and encouraged students to reach out to Dean of Students Melissa Van Der Wall, Associate Director of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Compliance Rachel Sawyer-Walker or her directly because “it is that important that we ensure an environment where everybody feels a sense of home and a sense of belonging.”
Next, she read the opening proclamation. One highlight of the proclamation included describing some of the ways Ramapo is inclusive to the LGBTQ+ community, like establishing the student staff positions of Queer Peer Services Coordinator and Trans Outreach Coordinator, offering identify-based discussion groups on campus and offering a minor in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies.
A highlight of the proclamation pertaining to disability awareness is Jebb expressing Ramapo’s “strong commitment to providing equal access to individuals with disabilities due to the removal of architectural and attitudinal barriers.” Jebb also stated that Ramapo has been ranked No. 24 on a list of most disability-friendly schools in the country.
Abbe Benowitz, the disability counselor at OSS, spoke more about the topic of disabilities and inclusion.
“A striking fact about the disabled population is that it is the most inclusive. Almost everyone is likely to experience some sort of disability, temporary or permanent, in their lives. If people with disabilities were a formally recognized minority group, they would be one of the largest minority groups in the United States, making up 19% of the country’s population,” she explained.
She also said inclusion is about making “a new space, a better space” instead of expanding what already exists.
She then highlighted one of the upcoming events for Disability Awareness Month. On Thursday, Oct. 19 at 1 p.m., OSS is holding its annual student panel on disabilities. Students can come out and share their stories about what it is like to be a Ramapo student with disabilities.
The event ended with a rundown of some of the events taking place for Queer and Trans History Month. One of those events is Pride Fest on Oct. 12 at noon in the Grove. There will be interactive and educational activities, crafts, giveaways and a special performance from drag queen Marilyn Monhoe.
Photo by Matthew Wikfors.